Mobility Moving Up

The army of corporate road warriors in the U.S. is marching and growing, according to a recent study by IDC. Nearly 105 million mobile workers will be pounding the pavement by 2006; and they'll need mobile middleware solutions to keep them connected with headquarters. Companies haven't missed the signs either, says Stephen Drake, program manager at IDC and author of the study. Interest is growing among enterprises worldwide, driven also by the mushrooming use of email and a better understanding of the role of critical enterprise technology, such as customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. Mobile middleware is the link to bridging corporate information with mobile employees. IDC claims the market will reach $1.7 billion by 2006, up from only $227 million last year -- a whopping compound annual growth rate of nearly 50 percent. Operating in this space are pure-play providers selling solutions directly to companies and wireless carriers, as well as giant software vendors offering mobile middleware as part of a larger application-server, portal or database sale. Sales this year, however, will be a bit slower due to a poor economy. Still, mobile middleware resonates well with businesses, thanks largely to real returns, says Drake. For instance, a cable company that can move service personnel off a clipboard and onto a Palm Pilot-type of device can manage the service employee's time better. "Now a cable guy can do an extra three or more service calls a day, while reducing the role of a data person," Drake explains. "That's real return on investment." Another interesting finding from the research is the role of email. Rather than building a proprietary and feature-rich interface for a CRM system, companies just want to get email out to their mobile workforce. "It's amazing that email has been able to trigger this market," Drake says. "It's a simple solution that makes sense and resonates very well with businesses." Tom Kaneshige also writes for, the Web site for CRM Magazine
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